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About Natural Family Planning

Fertility Awareness

Fertility awareness, or natural family planning, has been used successfully since the 1930's to predict a woman's fertile days. These methods include the old calendar rhythm method and sympto-thermal or basal body temperature methods, as well as newer techniques such as the standard days method (CycleBeads), the TwoDay method and fertility computers.

Fertility awareness methods are based on the fact that fertilization is most likely to occur around the time of ovulation. Intercourse is avoided during those times when a woman is fertile, thus preventing conception. These techniques are sometimes called periodic abstinence. Fertility awareness methods are the only methods of birth control which require the cooperation of both partners. Advantages of these methods are that they are very inexpensive, do not require the use of artificial devices or drugs, and have no harmful side-effects. In addition, many people prefer a natural, mutual method of preventing pregnancy. Even if fertility awareness isn't used as contraception, every woman can benefit from understanding the workings of her body.

Effectiveness of Natural Methods of Fertility Control

Many doctors are reluctant to recommend fertility awareness methods because of the high failure rate of the rhythm method, the first natural method to come into widespread use. However, newer natural methods listed in this section are as effective as artificial contraceptives. Additionally, users of these methods tend to be very loyal, continuing to practice NFP longer than users of any other non-surgical, non-prescription method, which indicates high satisfaction among couples. Most surprise pregnancies are due to risk-taking — having sex during identified fertile periods — rather than an inability for couples to properly interpret patterns of fertility. Many other failures are due to improper teaching and poor use. Many couples opt to use a condom or cervical barrier method during fertile periods, which is safer than risk taking, but will still decrease the effectiveness of these methods.

A Woman's Monthly Cycle

Fertility Wheel
Above is a pictorial representation of a 32 day menstrual cycle. For this woman, ovulation takes place on day "17."

Chances of Pregnancy by Day of Intercourse
day zero is ovulation

-5 -4 -3 -2 -1 0 1 2 3
0% 11% 15% 20% 26% 15% 9% 5% 0%

To use fertility awareness as a form of birth control it is strongly recommended that you first confer with a trained counselor. Couples who use this method improperly are more likely to get pregnant than those who misuse artificial methods.


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